On this feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, here are two sermons for the feast. The first, given by Pope Francis in 2013; and the second, given by Pope St John Paul II in 1997. Both are very beautiful.
HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Castel Gandolfo, 15 August 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
At the end of its Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council left us a very beautiful meditation on Mary Most Holy. Let me just recall the words referring to the mystery we celebrate today: “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when Her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things” (no. 59). Then towards the end, there is: “the Mother of Jesus in the glory which She possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and the beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, She shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come” (no. 68). In the light of this most beautiful image of our Mother, we are able to see the message of the biblical readings that we have just heard. We can focus on three key words: struggle, resurrection, hope.
The passage from Revelation presents the vision of the struggle between the Woman and the dragon. The figure of the Woman, representing the Church, is, on the one hand, glorious and triumphant and yet, on the other, still in travail. And the Church is like that: if in Heaven she is already associated in some way with the glory of her Lord, in history she continually lives through the trials and challenges which the conflict between God and the evil one, the perennial enemy, brings. And in the struggle which the disciples must confront – all of us, all the disciples of Jesus, we must face this struggle – Mary does not leave them alone: the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, She is with us. And in a way, Mary shares this dual condition. She has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory. But this does not mean that She is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout “Yes!”]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this “suffering” dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.
The second reading speaks to us of resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, insists that being Christian means believing that Christ is truly risen from the dead. Our whole faith is based upon this fundamental truth which is not an idea but an event. Even the mystery of Mary’s Assumption body and soul is fully inscribed in the resurrection of Christ. The Mother’s humanity is “attracted” by the Son in his own passage from death to life. Once and for all, Jesus entered into eternal life with all the humanity he had drawn from Mary; and she, the Mother, who followed him faithfully throughout her life, followed him with her heart, and entered with him into eternal life which we also call heaven, paradise, the Father’s house.
Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of Her Heart, the martyrdom of Her soul. She lived Her Son’s Passion to the depths of Her soul. She was fully united to Him in His death, and so She was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of “those who are in Christ”. She is our Mother, but we can also say that She is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, She is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven.
The Gospel suggests to us the third word: hope. Hope is the virtue of those who, experiencing conflict – the struggle between life and death, good and evil – believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love. We heard the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history. It is the song many saints, men and women, some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: mums, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents: these have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble. Mary says: “My soul glorifies the Lord” – today, the Church too sings this in every part of the world. This song is particularly strong in places where the Body of Christ is suffering the Passion. For us Christians, wherever the Cross is, there is hope, always. If there is no hope, we are not Christian. That is why I like to say: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope. May we not be robbed of hope, because this strength is a grace, a gift from God which carries us forward with our eyes fixed on heaven. And Mary is always there, near those communities, our brothers and sisters, She accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings the Magnificat of hope with them.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, with all our heart let us too unite ourselves to this song of patience and victory, of struggle and joy, that unites the triumphant Church with the pilgrim one, earth with heaven, and that joins our lives to the eternity towards which we journey. Amen.
EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION ON THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
HOMILY OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
Friday, 15 August 1997
- “The Queen stands at your right hand” (responsorial psalm).
Today’s liturgy sets before us the radiant icon of the Blessed Virgin who was taken up into heaven in the integrity of her body and soul. In the splendour of heavenly glory shines the One who, by reason of her humility, was made great in the sight of the Most High to the point that all generations call her blessed (cf. Lk 1:48). Now, as Queen, she sits beside her Son in the eternal happiness of paradise and looks upon her children from on high.
With this consoling certainty, we turn to her and call on her for those who are her children: for the Church and for all humanity, so that everyone, by imitating her faithful following of Christ, may reach the definitive homeland of heaven.
- “The Queen stands at your right hand”.
The first among those redeemed by Christ’s paschal sacrifice, Mary shines forth today as Queen of us all, pilgrims on our way to immortal life.
In her, assumed into heaven, we are shown the eternal destiny that awaits us beyond the mystery of death: a destiny of total happiness in divine glory. This supernatural vision sustains our daily pilgrimage. Mary teaches about life. By looking at her, we understand better the relative value of earthly greatness and the full sense of our Christian vocation.
From her birth to her glorious Assumption, her life unfolded on a journey of faith, hope and charity. These virtues, which blossomed in a humble heart abandoned to God’s will, are those adorning her precious, incorruptible crown as Queen. These are virtues which the Lord asks of all believers, if they are to share in his Mother’s glory.
The passage from Revelation just proclaimed speaks of the enormous red dragon that represents the perennial temptation facing man: to prefer evil to good, death to life, the easy pleasure of disengagement to the demanding but rewarding journey of holiness for which everyone has been created. In the fight against “the great dragon … that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rv 12:9), there appears the great sign of the victorious Virgin, Queen of glory, seated at the Lord’s right hand.
And in this spiritual battle her help to the Church is decisive for attaining the ultimate victory over evil.
- “The Queen stands at your right hand”.
Mary shines on earth “until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen gentium, n. 68). A caring mother to everyone, she supports the efforts of believers and encourages them to persevere in their commitment. Here I am thinking most particularly of young people, who are more exposed to the attractions and temptations of fleeting myths and false teachers.
Dear young people, look to Mary and call upon her with trust! The World Youth Day which will begin in Paris in a few days’ time will give you the opportunity to experience once again her motherly concern. May Mary help you to feel that you are an integral part of the Church and spur you not to be afraid of assuming your responsibilities as credible witnesses to God’s love.
Today, Mary assumed into heaven shows you where love and complete fidelity to Christ on earth lead: to the eternal joy of heaven.
- Mary, Woman clothed with the sun, help us to fix our gaze on Christ amid the inevitable sufferings and problems of everyday life.
Help us not to be afraid of following him to the very end, even when the cross seems unbearably heavy. Make us understand that this alone is the way which leads to the heights of eternal salvation.
And from heaven, where you shine forth as Queen and Mother of mercy, watch over each one of your children.
Guide them to love, adore and serve Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!